Culture - "Good" Review
16 April 2009
A look at one man's political involvement in the Nazi party in a piece that never quite escapes its theatrical origins.
Image Larry Horricks.
© Good Films.
Edmund Burke is mistakenly cited as originally saying "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Yet it serves to provide the point of CP Taylor's critically acclaimed play Good, which Vicente Amorim has adapted for the screen.
Burke was trying to justify his opposition to the French revolution. Taylor was ruminating on those who colluded with fascism. He puts it simply. "My principal themes are the conflicts between man's ideals and his limitations."
What he provides is a compelling narrative about the idea of "good" being clouded and contradicted by political expediency.
Cleverly, the Nazis changed the slogan to: "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country."
Central to Amorim's film is John Halder, a mild-mannered literary professor who is recruited by the Nazis after he writes a book about compassionate euthanasia.
Interestingly, he is played with great conviction by Viggo Mortensen, a US actor who has recently stood against the illegal war on Iraq.
It's a studied portrait of a man who's worried about his mother (Gemma Jones), who, having a terminal disease, is also beginning to feel the pressure of family life.
So, apart from throwing off his intelligent wife (Anastasia Hille) for a younger model (Jodie Whittaker), he reluctantly decides to join the Nazi Party.
Mind you, he is encouraged by a sweet-talking SS strongman (Mark Strong) before his new lady friend fellates him in his brand spanking new Nazi uniform.
The fly in the ointment is his cynical confidante Maurice (Jason Isaacs), a Jewish psychoanalyst who's left it too late to get out, despite several warnings.
This is the axis around which the moral arguments revolve - Halder becoming ever more compromised, simply because it's easier.
Apart from his moral and political cowardice, he, like so many others, including Jews, couldn't conceive that they were abetting genocide.
The trouble is, no matter what cinematic contrivance is employed, including some silly surrealist scenes, the film never escapes its theatrical origins.
Thus, it appears like a series of grand conversational pieces in front of neoclassical backgrounds festooned by large Nazi banners.
When reality bites, it holds no surprise for us, since, unlike Halder, with the benefit of hindsight, we all know of the horror.
The film's value isn't to compromise on its intentions and create a fictional resistance as posed by some recent dramas.
That said, the acting talent is formidable, with Jason Isaacs providing a fitting foil to test and ultimately trip up Mortensen's political line dancing.
As for Burke's misappropriation, it's still being used, most recently by our "good ol' boys" Bush and Blair in their pursuit of power.
You can bet that they won't be the last.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Last edited: 15 June 2009 04:09:26